Healthy relationships take a lot of work, and often that can mean taking a good hard look at your own dating behaviours. There are many ways we can screw up our romantic relationships without even realising it. But it’s important to think about how we could be actively sabotaging our relationships.
So how do you know if you’re self sabotaging? If you self-sabotage, you’ll probably tend to put up barriers to intimacy, This might look like being hypercritical, unassertive, picking fights, being overly distrusting or jealous, needing constant reassurance, and so on.
The roots of self-sabotage are often from early negative childhood experiences. Often it results from parents (or other caretakers) who have been either unresponsive, abusive, or inconsistent in their responsiveness and caretaking toward the child. It triggers deep-seated feelings of being unworthy or not good enough. It fosters a negative view of oneself and negative expectations or mistrust toward others.
Are you self-sabotaging your relationships?
You can speak to any expert and they’ll explain this behaviour is really common, and many of us can be guilty of self-sabotaging our relationships without even realising it. So here’s how to know if you’re doing just that.
5 Signs of self sabotage
1. You avoid pain
This is when you allow yourself to get to a certain point in a relationship before pulling back. Maybe you’ve seen too many sad films or really took to heart the saying ‘love hurts’… whatever the reason, avoiding pain is the outcome. This can manifest in a number of ways, from creating ‘bottom line’ issues out of nothing, to convincing yourself that this person isn’t ‘the one’ (if you believe in that in the first place) so you should move on.
2. You live in a fantasy land
So many people manage to avoid falling for someone because they adhere to a strict code. This is a list of ‘must haves,’ usually created in a much younger, more immature psychological state that leads that person to sabotage any and all future relationships – based on the skewed notion that the person they’re with isn’t worthy of their affection. Fantasy land behaviour often occurs within the first six months of a relationship and offers a sense of control and power that might have to be relinquished if you allow yourself to be vulnerable with another person.
3. You listen to your inner critic (waaaay too much)
We all have one, you know that little voice that goes on at you, telling you to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Yup, that’s the one. Well it’s our inner critic that, more often than not, is responsible for self-sabotaging our relationships. Convincing ourselves that we’re ‘not worthy‘ or that ‘it’ll all end in tears anyway so what’s the point?’ is the main reason a lot of relationships can fail. We don’t allow ourselves the chance at happiness because deep down we don’t feel we deserve it.
4. You care too much about what other people think
For some people, the opinions of others far outweigh that of their partners. This can be hugely damaging to a relationship. Sometimes hearing the opinion of other people will impact decisions you make about your relationship more so than anything your partner does/says because you’re trying to find reasons to convince yourself of why it won’t work.
5. You forget that you’re not the same
Expecting your partner to think, feel and act in the same way as you do is another form of self sabotage. Rigid thinking is an unhealthy way to live and can cause great stress and upset to your relationship. Accepting and appreciating that your partner’s experiences, understandings and ultimately the way in which they identify the world are different is the only way you can truly co-exist happily with one another.
3 ways to turn off self-destruct mode
1. Practice introspection
Notice what you’re thinking when a relationship starts to get tough or when you’re trying to take the next step. How do those thoughts connect with experiences you’ve had in the past? Are you recognising the need to pull away as something that’s happened before.
This is a great time to investigate your attachment style and whether there are things you could process so you don’t carry them into future relationships.
Think about your self-esteem level and whether there’s room for improvement. Practice self-compassion as you face fears about being vulnerable with a partner, if you convince yourself you’re not worthy of being loved then this will inadvertently make you push people away who care about you due to the fear of rejection. Especially when you’ve got a lot of feelings for someone.
2. Talk through it with your partner
Whatever you’re feeling, talk it through. While there might be a crazy mix of emotions going on in your head while you’re fighting the need to pull away, it’s a good idea to talk to the person who cares about you.
At the very least, as you examine your history and habits, communicate with your partner about self-sabotaging behaviors and how you’re working to change them. Tell them how you’ve felt like this before and how they can help you overcome it.
3. Add checkpoints to your relationship road map
Once you’re aware of your sabotaging habits, have regular check-ins with yourself and your partner to look for signs of stress in the relationship.
Are you constantly thinking the relationship will end or blow up? or are you always planning an exit strategy? When things are going well, do you do something to create distance? You may notice that you vacillate between idealising your partner and then devaluing them. Commitment and vulnerability are particularly triggering. While you want to be closer to them and build on your bond together. You’re also so scared of doing that, that you end up pushing them away instead of pulling them closer in the moment you actually need them.
Observe the feelings coming up in these moments. It’s often fear and confusion. Slow down and get curious with yourself as to the thoughts, feelings, and typical behaviors connected to those thoughts and feelings and what’s made you suddenly freak out. The more you discuss how you feel with your partner the easier the journey will be because they can help to soothe your worries.
Above all else, just remember that self sabotage happens to a lot of us. And recognising that you’re doing it is the first step in making it better. Communicate to your partner as much as you can and remind yourself that although it’s hard to break a habit. It isn’t impossible.